I’m old enough to remember doing all of my taxes by hand. Tax season started with a trip to the local post office to pick up a 1040-EZ and the accompanying instruction book. While I can still do my taxes the “old-fashioned” way, I prefer to embrace technology and use a tax preparation program that is right at my fingertips.

Although the deadline to file your 2012 income tax return isn’t until April 15, 2013, you can get started on your return now by using one of these four popular online tax return preparation programs.

1. Efile.com

Efile.com, an authorized IRS e-file provider, offers customers three different federal filing options: Free Federal, Deluxe and Premium. The free file is limited to taxpayers who are single, have no children and no mortgage. The Deluxe option is $19.95 and designed for families, taxpayers who have a mortgage, retired individuals and anyone who needs to use form 1040A.

The final category, Premium, is for self-employed taxpayers, those who itemize deductions and anyone who requires form 1040. The fee for the Premium service is $29.95. All three levels allow state returns to be filed for an additional fee.

2. TurboTax

TurboTax is probably the best recognized of all of the online tax preparation programs available. Between the software and the online program, TurboTax has helped prepare more than 200 million tax returns. TurboTax customers can choose from five different online options ranging in price from the free 1040EZ return to the $74.99 Home & Business option.

In addition to the five online options, TurboTax customers can also download software to their computer, purchase software at a local retailer or use an iPad to file a federal tax return.

3. H&R Block

H&R Block is another major player in the tax return preparation industry, offering customers a choice of online filing, downloadable software or in-office personal service. H&R Block also offers a free edition for customers who use the 1040EZ. The H&R Block basic program is $19.95, Deluxe is $29.95 and Premium is $49.95.

If you’re more of a traditionalist, you can locate an H&R Block Office in your area.

4. TaxACT

TaxACT offers online and downloadable tax preparation options. The company has four main options: Free Federal, Deluxe Federal, Ultimate Bundle and Home and Business Bundles. The Ultimate Bundle combines federal and state tax returns and starts at only $17.95, significantly lower than competitors that don’t bundle in the state return at the advertised price.

Unfortunately, the Home and Business bundles are only available as a software download or CD purchase, but customers who use this version can electronically file online.

Do you use an online tax return preparation program to file your income tax return?

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